‘Cuse football can’t hold on in Death Valley, fall to Clemson 27-21

‘Cuse football falls to Clemson 27-21

The No. 5 Tigers took the lead from the Orange in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 unanswered points.
Published: October 23, 2022
Cade Klubnik #2 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates after a first down in the third quarter against the Syracuse Orange at Memorial Stadium on October 22, 2022 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
Clemson's Cade Klubnik (2) celebrates after a first down in the third quarter against the Syracuse Orange at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Death Valley is known as one of the hardest places to win a football game as a visitor. On Saturday, the No. 14 Syracuse Orange learned the hard way just how difficult it is.

In front of a roaring crowd of 81,500 in Clemson, South Carolina, Syracuse faced the No. 5 Clemson Tigers in one of the most highly anticipated games in recent memory. It marks the first time that two teams that were 6-0 or better have faced off in Clemson’s home stadium.

The game started off looking pretty bleak for the Orange on both sides of the ball. Head coach Dino Babers decided to go for it on 4th and 4 just five minutes into the game, a risk that yielded no reward. Clemson scored just over two minutes later.

However, Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader and his offense marched up the field in dominant fashion and found their way into the end zone with just under six minutes to go in the first quarter. The score was a result of a 12-yard completion from Shrader to star running back Sean Tucker.

The Clemson offense was on a roll, making their way all the way to the Syracuse 35-yard line. It was then with less than a minute in the first quarter that Clemson’s breakout star quarterback DJ Uiagalelei would throw his first of two interceptions. Syracuse defensive back Ja’Had Carter was able to pick off Uiagalelei at the Syracuse 15-yard line.

While the Orange weren’t able to take advantage of Carter’s interception, Carter wasn’t quite done with his heroics. Six minutes into the second quarter, Carter recovered a fumble and brought it to the house on a 90-yard run. Syracuse claimed the lead 14-7.

Clemson running back Will Shipley continued to trample the Syracuse defense for the remainder of the quarter, but Syracuse line backer Mikel Jones was able to force Clemson into a 4th and 2 situation.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney decided to go for it. Yet again, the Syracuse defense came in clutch and forced a turnover on downs.

Syracuse linebacker Mikel Jones during the game against No. 5 Clemson on October 22, 2022.
Syracuse linebacker Mikel Jones warms up during Saturday's game against No. 5 Clemson.

Up to this point in the season, Syracuse has used Shrader as a sort of running back and quarterback hybrid, and today was no different. With just under two minutes to go in the first half, Shrader ran his way into the end zone to extend Syracuse’s lead to 21-7.

Clemson followed by quickly working their way into field goal range and making a 44-yard attempt.

Syracuse was up 21-10 against the fifth best team in the nation heading into halftime, something that very few expected.

Arguably even more shocking was that those 21 points would be all the Orange would record in Death Valley today.

The Syracuse defense looked solid coming out of the half, forcing Clemson to punt on their first drive. Then, the penalties started to rain down on the Orange offense and everything began to unravel.

The Orange offense continuously failed to match the high level of play from their defense. They were unable to capitalize on both a fumble recovery by Syracuse linebacker Marlowe Wax and an interception by defensive back Jason Simmons Jr. in the third quarter. Two great plays, each followed by a punt.

It was at this point that Swinney and the Tigers did something no one would’ve anticipated prior to the game.

The Tigers took Uiagalelei out, replacing him with his freshman backup Cade Klubnik.

Klubnik turned out to be the spark that the Tigers needed. He led a drive that resulted in a touchdown that cut Syracuse’s lead to five points. However, Clemson’s two-point conversion attempt failed.

Not even 30 seconds after the Syracuse offense was forced to punt yet again, the Tigers found the endzone to take the lead, 21-22. Their two-point conversion attempt was good, putting them up 21-24.

A Syracuse punt was followed by a Clemson punt, which was then followed by another Syracuse punt in the final quarter. When Clemson got the ball back, they worked their way into field goal range in just over two minutes. The Orange defense forced a 44-yard field goal attempt, which Clemson placekicker B.T. Potter aced. Clemson led 27-21 with less than minutes left in the game.

Syracuse football faces off with No. 5 Clemson Tigers in Clemson, South Carolina on October 22, 2022.
Syracuse football faces off with No. 5 Clemson Tigers in Clemson, South Carolina on October 22, 2022.

Shrader had 93 seconds to make a miracle happen for his team.

The drive was promising at first, with Damien Alford making a SportsCenter Top 10 worthy catch to put Syracuse at the Syracuse 16-yard line.

Syracuse wide receiver Oronde Gadsden II, Tucker, and Shrader managed to work their way to the Clemson 30-yard line. A victory was within striking distance.

With 17 seconds left in the game, Shrader made arguably his biggest mistake of the season.

Shrader attempted a risky pass that was intercepted by Clemson safety R.J. Mickens. There were four Clemson players in the area to which Shrader threw. A high risk play that yielded no reward.

Clemson extended its undefeated record to 7-0 and broke the ACC home game winning streak with 38 straight home wins.

Syracuse fell to 6-1 on the season, picking up their first loss of the season. The Orange hope to redeem themselves next Saturday back in the JMA Wireless Dome against Notre Dame. A kickoff time has yet to be announced.